Have you ever found a hair in your food and been unable to finish the rest of your meal? There might even be a greater than average possibility that the hair is yours, but that doesn’t matter. Every bite thereafter will be tainted by the taste of that gross, icky hair. This is, in a nutshell, negativity bias. It’s a real thing, and it really can jack your business up.
Why Focus on the Negative?
So, what’s wrong with people that they can’t remember the delicious appetizer and cocktail that kicked off the meal? Why do they swear never to return to the restaurant again and even wonder if there was a hair in their hors d’oeuvres they just didn’t see?
The reality is that negative things just don’t happen as often, and that’s why they stand out. Yes, it’s true. We’re generally happy people who always get delicious food, good service, and quality products. We’re so used to the good stuff that we’re literally taken aback when something bad happens. Doesn’t matter if the store we visit has been our favorite for years, either. All it takes is one bad experience to erase years of fantastic ones.
Counteracting Negativity Bias
We all know that sometimes stuff just happens. How can you prepare for disaster well enough to overcome negativity bias? Well, fortunately for you, there’s another bias that’s even more powerful than negativity, and that’s the peak-end bias.
The peak-end bias states that we’re programmed to remember the most intense point of any experience and then also the end. If you can make the last experience way better than the hair-in-the-food experience, there’s a chance you can save the day.
The War of the Biases
So, now we have the negativity bias going head to head with peak-end bias. Which will be stronger? We’ve already established negativity sticks with people simply because positive (or neutral) experiences are so much more common. That doesn’t give a lot of credence to the peak-end bias, does it?
Before you dismiss it, think about the last trip you took. Maybe you all crammed into a car and fought over the radio and listened to the kids scream for half the journey. No? Oh, I see. You remember the Disneyworld parade and the moonlit stroll on the beach most of all, right?
We talked before about the race toward the finish line and how many people save the best for last. This is, essentially, your chance to set off all the fireworks at once. Restaurants often attempt to soothe raw emotions with a free dessert, stores offer easy exchange and return policies, and some even give away stuff for free. You should probably have one of these powerful possibilities prepared just in case.
Just Good Sense
Providing excellent customer service is just good sense, though someone should probably remind my cable company. Sometimes things will go wrong, but if you’re paying attention and constantly giving excellent customer service, you might just erase the problem before you ever knew it existed.
Whatever you do, make sure the last interaction your customer has with you is positive. By accepting returns, offering additional discounts, and taking extra time out of your day to walk customers through any problems, you slowly erase any of the frustration they may have felt if your eCommerce site was down, their credit card was charged twice, the wrong size was delivered, or their package got lost in the mail.
How else can you make sure buyers always leave the transaction with a positive impression of your company? Have you ever turned around a negative experience at the last minute and saved a customer? We’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!
Originally published Jun 11, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated October 20 2016